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such selfish creatures love others ? The answer is easy. It is because they have received, or expect to receive, benefit from them. This is the reason our Lord assigns.“ If ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.” For the same reason that sinners love themselves, they naturally love those that love them and are disposed to do them good. As they love their own interest because it is their own, so they love every person or object which serves to increase or preserve their own interest. They do not value and love others because they are valuable and worthy to be loved, but merely because they view them as means or instruments of securing or advancing their own personal happiness. They value their fellow men for the same reason that they value their own houses and lands, flocks and herds. They love these, not on their own account, but because they serve their selfish purposes. So they love their fellow men, not on their own account, but because they deem them in some way or other subservient to their private, separate interest.
III. It remains to inquire, why there is no moral goodness in the love which sinners exercise towards themselves and others. Christ supposes that they all know the nature of their love, and that there is nothing virtuous or praise worthy in it. “If ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? If ye do good to them that do good to you, what thank have ye? And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive as much again, what thank have ye?” Is there any thing truly virtuous and amiable in men's loving themselves, or in loving others from mere selfish, mercenary motives? All men in the world know that there is no moral goodness in such selfish affections, and they are always unwilling to acknowledge that they are actuated by mercenary motives. Who is willing to allow that he loves himself merely because he is himself? or that he loves others merely because they love him ? or that he never does good to others only when he thinks it will be for his private advantage? Who in public life is willing to avow that he is not seeking the public good, but only his own private interest? Who is willing to own that he has ever given or taken a bribe? Who is willing to be seen in doing any act of selfishness? Who ever thanked another for doing him a benefit only for the sake of gaining a much greater benefit? We never thank men for loving themselves, nor for loving us merely for their own sake. It is the unanimous sentiment of mankind that there is no virtue in that love which flows entirely from mercenary motives. But why? This is the point now to be illustrated. Here then I would observe,
1. That there is no moral goodness in the love which sinners feel and express, because it is not a conformity to that love which God feels and expresses. He is good unto all, and his tender mercies are over all his works. He seeks not only his own glory, but the real good of others. Christ, therefore, presents him as the standard of perfection, and commands them to conform to him who loves those that hate him, and does good to his most inveterate enemies. “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be
therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” There is no conformity in the love of sinners to the love of God. His love is virtuous and excellent, because it terminates upon all proper objects; but there is no moral beauty or excellence in their love, because it wholly terminates upon an improper object; that is, their own selfish interest. God does not love them exclusively, and merely because they are themselves, but because he regards the good of every creature according to its worth. This is a holy and disinterested love; but when sinners love themselves because they are themselves, and love others because they are beneficial to them, there is no moral virtue or excellence in it. It bears no conformity to the love of God, which is the standard of all moral perfection.
2. The selfish love of sinners has no moral goodness in it, because it is no obedience to the divine law. This law requires them to love God with all the heart, and to love their fellow men as themselves. But when they love themselves because they are themselves, and love others only because they have received or expect to receive benefit from them, do they obey the divine law ? Do they feel towards God as they would that he should feel towards them? Or do they feel towards others as they would that others should feel towards thern? Does their selfish affection in the least degree answer the demands of that law which requires pure, disinterested love? It is morally impossible for sinners to love God supremely, and their fellow men impartially, from a selfish heart. Let their love to God or man rise ever so high, it can have no moral goodness in it, because it is not obedience to the divine law, which requires nothing but pure, holy, disinterested love.
3. There is no moral goodness in the selfishness of sinners, because it is the very essence of all moral evil. All the wickedness of Satan consists in his selfishness. He loves himself VOL. IV.
because he is himself, and loves only those who love him, because their love serves to promote what he considers as his cause and interest. He desires to bring God and all his intelligent creatures into subjection to himself, and of course hates, and opposes, and endeavors to destroy, all who stand in his way, and obstruct his malignant designs. He knows by his own feelings, that selfishness will hate God and oppose all good. Accordingly, when he accused Job of selfishness, he said that he would rise in enmity against God, and blaspheme his name, if God should only touch his selfish interest. "And Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side ? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.” Had Job been totally selfish, Satan's prediction would have been fulfilled, and he would have hated, and if he dared would have blasphemed, God, when he stripped him of all that he had given him. Our Saviour represented selfishness in the same light. He told such as followed him from mercenary motives, “ I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.” And he told certain persons who had professed to love him and believe in him, “ Ye your father the devil, and the lusts of your
And the apostle Paul in his epistle to Timothy represents selfishness in the most odious light. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their ownselves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, high minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God." There is no evil affection, and no evil conduct, but what selfishness will, under certain circumstances, produce. It is the directly opposite affection to true benevolence, and therefore the root of all moral evil. It is the carnal mind, which is enmity against God, and not subject to his law, neither indeed can be. It seeks a personal interest, which is diametrically opposite to the glory of God and the general interest of his kingdom. It opposes the good of sinners themselves, and makes them, as the apostle says, “ hateful, and hating one another.” It tends to spread misery and destruction through the universe. It makes creatures as bad as they can be, and would destroy them all, were it not for the power and wisdom and goodness of God, which are employed in restraining, directing, and overruling its pernicious influence. Though sinners may love those which love them, and do good
to those that do good to them, yet the nature of their feelings and conduct is still the same. Their apparent goodness is the essence of moral evil. Their partial love is general malevolence, and their best deeds are an abomination to the Lord. All their affections and exertions terminate in themselves. They value and regard themselves more than all other beings put together, and whose interest they would sacrifice to promote their own. And can there be any thing virtuous, or arniable, or praise worthy, in such a totally selfish love, which is disconformity to God, disobedience to his law, and in its nature and tendency destructive of all the good of his holy kingdom?
1. If sinners may love themselves and others from mere selfish motives, then it is easy to account for all their kind and friendly conduct towards their fellow creatures, consistently with their total depravity. Their selfishness naturally prompts them to do
any thing which they think will turn to their own personal advantage. To gain friends, they will show themselves friendly. To gain the love, esteem, and confidence of others, they will do acts of kindness, compassion, and even liberality. And the most depraved and selfish creature in the universe would do the same things, to obtain the same selfish ends. Satan always acts from this motive, when he transforms himself into an angel of light, and appears to seek the good of others. When he tempted our first parents, he professed to be more concerned to promote their knowledge and happiness, than even their Creator. When he tempted Christ to turn stones into bread, and commit himself to the divine care and protection, he appeared like a kind and friendly angel. And we have reason to believe that he loves his infernal subjects who love him, and are heartily engaged to promote his cause and interest in this world; otherwise, as our Saviour says, his kingdom could not stand. But such things are no evidence against his total depravity, and therefore they are no evidence against the total depravity of sinners. Indeed, there is nothing that can be said against their total depravity, but what may be said with equal plausibility against his total depravity. If it be said that they love themselves, so does he. If it be said that they love those that love them, so does he. If it be said that they are kind and friendly to those that promote their interest, so is he. If it be said that they do, in their conscience, approve of what is holy, just and good in others, so does he. He approved of the holiness of Christ, when he called him the Holy One of God.” If it be said that they do, in their conscience, disap
prove of what is selfish and sinful in others, so does he. He represented Job as selfish, and condemned him as wicked. If Satan were placed in the same situation in which sinners are now placed, he would appear as good as they. Or if they were placed in the same situation in which he is now placed, they would appear as bad as he. There is no more difficulty, therefore, in accounting for the conduct of sinners, consistently with their total depravity, than in accounting for the conduct of the devil, consistently with his total depravity. Total selfishness in Satan and in sinners will satisfactorily account for the good as well as bad appearances in both.
2. If the moral depravity of sinners consists in selfishness, then the moral depravity of Adam consisted in selfishness, and not in the mere want of holiness. Supposing he had lost his holiness at the moment he was tempted to eat of the forbidden fruit, yet his loss of holiness could not have rendered him morally depraved. All his natural powers, instincts, and appetites must have remained as innocent, after he lost his holiness, as before he lost it. There was no possibility of his becoming morally depraved, without a free, voluntary exercise of selfish
And it appears from the account given of his first offence, that it essentially consisted in loving himself supremely. He voluntarily partook of the forbidden fruit, from the motive of increasing his own knowledge and happiness, in opposition to the glory of God and the good of all his posterity. This was freely and voluntarily turning from benevolence to selfishness, which is the essence of moral depravity. He became morally depraved in the same manner that Satan, the first sinner in the universe, became depraved. Satan had no corporeal instincts or appetites to tempt him to rebel against his Maker. He loved his own glory more than the glory of God, and aspired to become independent and supreme, which was the essence of selfishness, or moral depravity. The prevailing notion that Adam became morally depraved by the mere want of holiness, is repugnant to the very nature of moral depravity, and to every dictate of reason and scripture.
3. If sinners love themselves because they are themselves, and love others only because they suppose them to be subservient to their interest, then their affections are always selfish and sinful, let them rise ever so high, or extend ever so far. They often do love those who love them, very ardently. But they never love such persons so ardently as they love themselves. For all their love to others flows from love to themselves, and the streams cannot rise so high as the fountain. Hence their most ardent and raised affections to others are as really selfish and sinful, as if they were ever so low and languid. Their